Shannon Winslow has already been my guest (HERE) in August with an interesting piece about her "The Darcys of Pemberley". Today's she's here again to talk Jane Austen with me and to grant you a new chance to win her beautiful continuation of P&P. Read the interview, answer Shannon's final questions (not necessarily all of them) and add your e-mail address if you want to be entered the giveaway of a signed copy of "The Darcys of Pemberley." Open worldwide, this giveaway ends on 14th October.
Thanks, Maria! I’m delighted to be here.
First, tell me when and how you met Jane Austen.
Would you believe I met her at Costco about nine years ago? Before that fateful shopping trip, I hadn’t read any of her novels. I didn’t even watch period movies. Then, purely on impulse (or maybe it was Colin Firth’s pretty face), I bought the 1995 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. That started me off. Loved the movie. Read the book. Read and reread all Jane Austen’s novels. Bought every film version I could get my hands on, and so forth. I’ve been a confirmed Janeite ever since.
Why do you think we still love Jane Austen today? I mean, what do you feel is the explanation for the fact that her appeal has continued, stronger than ever, into the 21st century?
I’ve thought a lot about that question, and, more personally, what it was that struck such a cord with me the first time I read her work. I believe it’s really a combination of things. First, good writing stands the test of time, and Jane Austen was a gifted story-teller. Novels were a new literary form in her day, and she had no formal training. Yet she read widely and, consciously or intuitively, understood the elements and structure of a good story. Plus, the themes she wrote about – finding love, balancing ideals against economic and social pressures, the triumph of the human spirit over circumstances – these subjects are timeless.
I think for me, the other ingredient is the fairy-tale quality of her stories. They take us away from the crudeness and complexity of modern life, back to what seems like a simpler, more gracious time. I say “seems like” because, with Jane Austen, we don’t see the grittier side of the picture – the poverty of peasants, or the lack of indoor plumbing, decent hygiene, and medical care. That’s okay with me. When I’m reading (or writing) for my own enjoyment, I’m not interested in focusing on the dark side of life. My favorite Jane Austen quote is, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.”
You’ve contrasted her world with ours. What do you think Jane Austen would appreciate most about our time, and, conversely, what social evils would be the target of her wit if she was writing now?
She would certainly be delighted with the progress toward equality that women have made – from virtually no rights and very few options to a much wider world of opportunity now, at least in western society. I don’t think the targets of her caustic wit would have changed much, though. People are still basically the same. There’s just as much snobbery, vanity, foolishness, and hypocrisy now as then.
The Darcys of Pemberley is a sequel. So, what do you think motivates all the updates, spin-offs, mash-ups, and sequels – in print and on screen? And do you consider the trend ultimately good or bad for Jane Austen’s legacy?
Basically, I feel that whatever gets and keeps people interested in Jane Austen is good for her legacy and good for her fans. I’m not fond of the weirder interpretations myself – I take more of a “purist” approach – but I think most of the interest is motivated by genuine admiration for Jane Austen’s work, and the hunger for more.
Darcy and Elizabeth are the central characters in your continuation of Pride and Prejudice. Do you think they are Austen’s most successfully matched couple?
Yes, I think what I like most about the pairing is that although they are both strong characters, they have a symbiotic relationship. One is not dominant over the other, or more virtuous. They’re complimentary; they each become better under the influence of the other. Lizzy realizes this only after there seems no chance for them to get together:
She began now to comprehend that he was exactly the man, who, in disposition and talents, would most suit her. His understanding and temper, though unlike her own, would have answered all her wishes. It was an union that must have been to the advantage of both; by her ease and liveliness, his mind might have been softened, his manners improved, and from his judgment, information, and knowledge of the world, she must have received benefit of greater importance. (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 50)
The Collinses get my vote. There’s no romance, no companionship of like-minded spirits, no chance that the character of either Charlotte or Mr. Collins will benefit from the other. Even though
walked into that marriage with her eyes wide open, I felt compelled to rescue her. In my book and short story (Mr. Collins’s Last Supper), I wrote a better fate for her than she chose for herself. Charlotte
Is there another minor character from Jane Austen’s work that you’d like to write a spin-off story for?
I’ve actually started work on the next installment of the Pride and Prejudice saga, beginning five years after the close of The Darcys of Pemberley. But this one will feature Mary Bennet. A protagonist needs to change and develop over the course of a novel, and Mary has so much room for improvement! We know her as a young woman who is physically plain, socially awkward, and overly proud of her intellectual and musical accomplishments. I’d like to see her grow beyond that, to prove herself someone we can sympathize with and root for. As with
, I want to give Mary her shot at happiness. Charlotte
That’s something to look forward to down the road. What else is in the works?
I have two other completed novels – an independent Austenesque story titled For Myself Alone, and a contemporary “what-if” about, of all things, a minor-league baseball player who gets a second chance at his dream (I managed to work a Jane Austen reference even into that book, however!). I also have an idea for a Persuasion tie-in novel. But the next to be published will be short stories – two parodies in Bad Austen this November, and, one way or another, Mr. Collins’s Last Supper (finalist in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It). It’s a tongue-in-cheek tale about Mr. Collins’s premature demise, and so serves as a prequel to The Darcys of Pemberley.
For those that don’t know much about The Darcys of Pemberley, how would you describe it?
It’s the tale of two romances: Darcy and
’s continuing story, and Georgiana’s courtship. If you didn’t want Pride and Prejudice to end, it gives you the chance to see what happens after the wedding, revisit old friends and foes, and share the next chapter of their lives. Elizabeth
Now I’d like to hear from you, Janeite readers! What type of Jane Austen fan fiction do you like best, or least, and why? What hasn't been done yet, that you’d be interested in reading? Would you like to see Mary Bennet get a little respect … and her own book?
If I can answer your last question ... Why not, Shannon! It'd be great. Thanks a lot. It's been a great pleasure to talk with you. Till next time, then!